Ozaukee whips up late comeback, churns past Cedar Grove-Belgium for satisfying upset victory
On a night when two hard-nosed football teams were happy to exchange blows, the Ozaukee Warriors delivered the knockout punch.
Playing in front of their largest home crowd in recent memory, the Warriors capped a festive evening by rallying for a 35-28 win in a slugfest to open the Central Lakeshore Conference season last Friday.
Devon Linzenmeyer scored four touchdowns for Ozaukee, including a pair in the fourth quarter that allowed his team to overcome a 28-21 deficit and hand the defending CLC champions their first league loss since 2007.
Linzenmeyer, a junior running back, finished with a game-high 106 yards on 26 carries, including the winning score on a 1-yard burst with 3 minutes, 58 seconds to play.
“This was a really big win for our program,” said first-year Ozaukee coach Jim Lippe, whose team improved to 2-0 overall.
“Cedar Grove had not lost a conference game in two years, and they beat us big the last two years.”
Ozaukee fans held several events to help fill the stands, including a pregame pig roast and ceremonies that honored local emergency personnel and the Warriors’ first conference championship team in 1976.
Cedar Grove-Belgium, which had not lost to Ozaukee in eight years, jumped ahead early and scored four touchdowns in the first two quarters on the way to a 28-21 lead at halftime.
Hunter Buechler, a junior halfback, scored on runs of seven and 10 yards for the Rockets, who also got touchdown passes from quarterback Travis Obbink.
Obbink’s 6-yard scoring strike to tight end Jonathan Herzog with just 23 seconds left in the half gave Cedar Grove-Belgium its final lead.
However, the Warriors matched each Cedar Grove-Belgium touchdown with one of their own. Besides Linzenmeyer’s first two scoring runs (from 22 and two yards out), quarterback Alex Janke threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Jason Gensrick in the first period.
Although the third quarter was scoreless, Cedar Grove-Belgium took a major hit when Buechler left with a leg injury that sidelined him the rest of the game.
“Losing Hunter definitely hurt us,” said Rockets coach Chris Zablocki, whose team fell to 1-2 overall. “We didn’t have him on either offense or defense (as a linebacker).
“But our other kids stepped up, played hard and made a game of it. We had our chances, but we made too many mistakes.”
The Warriors took control with a big special-teams play in the fourth quarter.
With 8:55 left, Hunter Hess blocked a punt deep in Rockets’ territory, and Linzenmeyer recovered the ball in the end zone.
Eric Hartnett converted the fourth of his five extra-point kicks to tie the game at 28-28.
“That was a huge play with a huge momentum swing for us,” Lippe said. “It was a big turning point.”
Ozaukee’s defense — which held the Rockets to just four first downs and forced five turnovers — continued to step up late in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors’ comeback was capped by Linzenmeyer’s final score.
“We faced a lot of adversity in the first half,” Lippe said. “Particularly, we struggled a lot in the first half on special teams.
“But we came back and gave up no points in the second half.”
Obbink completed three of nine passes for 71 yards but had three interceptions — by Janke, Gensrick and Steve Street.
Lippe singled out the play of defensive end Matt Demler and Josh Paape, the latter of whom “played really well on the O-line and at defensive tackle.”
The Warriors finished with 330 yards in total offense, including 193 passing and 137 on the ground.
Janke completed seven of 14 passes. His top target was Gensrick, a wide receiver who had three catches for 155 yards.
“Alex showed a lot of poise. He works really hard and does a good job,” Lippe said.
Buechler led the Rockets’ running game with 73 yards on 17 carries.
Zach Schulz intercepted a pass for Cedar Grove-Belgium.
“It was a tough loss for us, but you have to give all the credit to Ozaukee,” Zablocki said.
“We knew it would be a tough game because Ozaukee is much improved. We moved the ball, but they took advantage of our mistakes.”
The Rockets will try to get back on track this Friday when they host Random Lake in a Parents Night game at 7 p.m.
Buechler is expected to miss that game as well as a Sept. 24 game at Sheboygan Lutheran, Zablocki said.
Ozaukee will receive a gift win Friday. Stockbridge, the Warriors’ scheduled opponent, has forfeited the rest of its season due to a shortage of players.
The Warriors’ next game will be Sept. 24 at Oostburg.
RUNNING BACK Devon Linzenmeyer pulled free of Cedar Grove-Belgium’s Chris Peszko on his way through the line in Ozaukee’s 35-28 upset win Friday. Linzenmeyer, a junior, ran for 106 yards and had four touchdowns, including the winning score with less than four minutes to play. Photo by Sam Arendt